Los Angeles City Councilmen Paul Koretz, 5th District, and Gil Cedillo, 1st District, are reviving an ordinance from 2009 that sought to criminalize the practice of wage theft and increase the tracking and enforcement of such thefts.
The original ordinance, proposed by then-Councilman Richard Alarcon, expired per council policy.
According to Alarcon’s motion, a UCLA study found that at the time, 26 percent of low-wage workers are not paid minimum wage and 76 percent are not paid their legal overtime rate.
It also found that 70 percent of employees who worked off the clock received no pay for the work they completed, while 12 percent of workers who receive tips had some stolen by their employers. Additionally, many low-wage employees have not received compensation for being injured on the job. Of those injured on duty, 8 percent filed workers compensation paperwork, and 33 percent paid medical bills out-of-pocket.
“Wage theft still occurs in our society for several reasons, including [the] use of scare tactics by employers and [the] lack of reporting and tracking,” the motion stated.
According to the UCLA study, 43 percent of workers who complained about wage theft or tried to form a union were illegally retaliated upon by their employers — in the form of suspensions, terminations, deportation threats or threats to cut their hours or pay. Additionally, 57 percent of low-wage workers did not receive mandatory pay documents that are used to ensure their pay is legal and accurate, making the process of tracking wage theft difficult.
“Wage theft threatens the health and welfare of workers, their family and society,” the motion states.
The new motion calls on Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the UCLA Downtown Labor Center and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, draft an ordinance to criminalize wage theft and improve efforts to track wage theft when it occurs.
The council is tentatively scheduled to discuss the ordinance on July 1.
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